A draft of the County Donegal Development Plan 2018 - 2024 will go forward for public consultation after a number of calls were made at a meeting of Donegal County Council to relax one-off housing planning permission in rural Donegal.
Several councillors said they would be seeking a relaxing of the rules to allow people from Donegal to build houses anywhere in Donegal, as long as they were within conventional planning guidelines, in a bid to halt rural decline in the county.
This week's meeting was opened by Cathaoirleach Terence Slowey. Director of Service, Liam Ward, outlined that they had included a number of addendum to the working plan.
These were outlined to the council officials by Paul Christie and Sinead Harkin from the council planning department.
A draft version of the environmental report was also up for consideration.
Mr Christie said that a first four addendum related to areas along the border and the possible impact of Brexit. He said he was “taken aback” to learn that a figure of up to 300,000 people cross between the border with Northern Ireland on a weekly basis.
Fianna Fail’s Cllr Paul Canning said he was “very disappointed” as he felt planning concerns raised previously at local level did not “take on the concerns of a lot of members”.
He said he would be seeking to add more submissions to the draft plan and an explanation of why any submissions may be rejected.
“If you are planning to get this thing across the line members need to be taken more seriously,” he stated.
Councillor Bernard McGuinness asked what was in the plan to help promote rural housing. He said it was “nearly impossible” to get planning permission in some cases due to regulations.
Cllr Enda Bonner said many people had aspirations to relocate to rural areas. If they were from the county, he said they should be allowed to seek planning for a one off house, and not be “debarred” from doing so because they were not living in a rural area previously.
Cllr Seamus O’Domhnaill said while they need to develop strong urban centres, it should not be done at “the detriment of rural areas”, adding he felt his concerns “fell on deaf ears”.
Cllr Frank McBrearty the council needed to “get rid of indigenous planning”.
The relaxing of planning regulations in rural Donegal could have a detrimental impact on inflating land prices for local people, and could also impact negatively in the promotion of the Irish language in Gaeltacht areas, according to Cllr Marie Teresa Gallagher.
She said the inflated prices could leave the price of land “out of reach for some” if land is bought for holiday home development.
She said she believes the rise in holiday homes in some areas has led to the closure of local hotels and guest houses. Cllr Gallagher added that they should also take the Irish Language Impact Assessment into consideration as there has been a “huge decline” in the national language in the county.
Council Chief Executive, Seamus Neely, said the many views raised showed the complexity of the draft but he would ask for it to be considered to go to public consultation with the addendums added.
Cllr Seamus O'Domhnaill proposed they adopt the draft with the caveat that their concerns be must be addressed or receive a rationale detailing why they have not been included.
This was seconded by Cllr Nicholas Crossan.
The period of public consultation will be from May 19 to July 31 next.
The council members also agreed to the publication of a draft environmental report for public consultation in relation to wind farms in the county.
This was proposed by Cllr John Campbell and seconded by Cllr Seamus O'Domhnaill.